If versatility is what you’re looking for in your outdoor cooking game, a flat-top grill fills that need. Unlike a traditional grill that delivers searing grate marks on your burgers, flat-top grills provide an even surface to cook everything from stir fry to scrambled eggs to traditional Teppanyaki-style foods found in Japanese hibachi restaurants. And you can still get a great sear on those burgers—the high temperatures effectively cook food without an open flame.
"As with any style of cooking, when first starting out on a flat-top grill, keep it simple. I recommend burgers as the first cook—they are fast and their higher fat content helps with seasoning the cooking surface," says Daniel P. Craig, chef and founder of Kitchen Deets. "Flat-top grills are perfect for cooking breakfast and since you can do the whole meal on one surface it is a great way to learn temperature control and use multiple cooking zones. It's all about being present and attentive to the process that makes this style of cooking so easy," he adds. With that in mind, the 700-square-inch Blackstone 36-Inch Original Flat-Top Gas Griddle is my pick for best overall.
If you want to level up your outdoor kitchen game, these are the best flat-top grills, from built-in models to portable options.
Blackstone 36-Inch Original Flat-Top Gas Griddle
What We Love: Battery push-start ignition, easy to transport, powerful, removable cutting board
What We Don’t Love: Bulky
With more than 700 square inches of cooking area, this top model delivers on space for cooking breakfast for the whole family or hosting burger night on the deck for an army of friends. And it’s powerful—the four burners are independently controlled and put out 60,000 BTUs of heat. This is clutch when you need multiple heat zones for varying foods.
The Blackstone 36-inch model is heavy-duty, but it also is pretty easy to move around with folding legs set on lockable casters. And the extra features cannot be ignored. Food prep shelves attach on either side of the grill, ample space underneath is provided for a 20-pound propane tank to sit, and the included cutting board relieves trips to the kitchen. When you’re finished grilling up peppers and onions to go with those juicy hot Italian sausages, clean-up is a cinch with the enhanced grease management system on this model.
Price at time of publish: $440
Cooking Area: 720 square inches | BTUs/hour: 60,000 | Number of Burners: 4
Country Smokers The Highland 4-Burner Portable Griddle
What We Love: Pre-seasoned, portable and lightweight, ample cooking surface, protective burner covers to maintain heat
What We Don't Love: Legs feel flimsy
Flat-top grills can be an investment, but if you’re looking to dip your feet in without spending a lot, the Country Smokers Horizon Series is a smart choice. The portable, 4-burner grill comes pre-seasoned, making it ready right out of the package for your cooking forays. And the legs are collapsible for easy transport if it’s tailgating season.
Affordability doesn’t mean less capability with this model. The 597-square-inch cooking surface can handle a weenie roast for up to 10 people, and the 44,000 BTUs are plenty powerful. And the protective burner covers help maintain a hot cooking surface while grilling. Not only is this model a great budget choice, but it’s easy to operate for those just starting out in the flat-top grilling world.
Price at time of publish: $149
Cooking Area: 597 square inches | BTUs/hour: 44,000 | Number of Burners: 4
Best Space Saver
Cuisinart 22-Inch Round Flat Top Grill
What We Love: 360-degree grease pan, locking wheels, towel rack and folding prep table included, easy assembly
What We Don't Love: Only two burners
Cozy patio owners rejoice—there is a flat-top grill that will fit your outdoor space. Cuisinart’s round model is an economical 22 inches in diameter that offers 360-degree access while cooking. The two independently-controlled burners put out 30,000 BTUs for the 380-square-inch cooking surface making it perfect for singles, couples, or even a small family.
The vented dome cover on the Cuisinart Round Flat-Top Grill gives the cook the option to steam, roast, smoke, and even bake, making it versatile far beyond grilling. Set on wheels with locking casters for stability, this model also features a folding prep table, a towel rack, ample space beneath the grill to store your propane tank, and a cover to protect it in inclement weather. The oversized grease pan directs grease to a removable bin for easy cleanup. From push-start ignition to flexible heat zones, this model packs a lot of power in a small package.
Price at time of publish: $250
Cooking Area: 380 square inches | BTUs/hour: 30,000 | Number of Burners: 2
Related: The Best Small Grills
Blackstone 22-Inch Portable Gas Griddle
What We Love: Powerful, compact, effective grease management, durable
What We Don’t Love: Only 2 burners
If camping, tailgating, and van life are on the horizon this summer, a portable flat-top grill is the option for you. Weighing in at a (relatively) lightweight 37.5 pounds with 361 inches of cooking surface and two burners putting out 24,000 BTUs, the Blackstone 22-inch is powerful and portable. And the heavy-rolled carbon steel surface is extremely durable. Even though it's small, it has features in common with the big boys, like independently controlled burners, each with its own built-in piezo igniter.
Keep in mind this model does not come with the hose and regulator needed for operation so pick them up with a 20-pound tank of propane and you’ll be ready to hit the road with this small, but mighty flat-top grill.
Price at time of publish: $220
Cooking Area: 361 square inches | BTUs/hour: 24,000 | Number of Burners: 2
Related: The Best Portable Grills
Blaze Premium LTE 30-Inch Built-In Natural Gas Griddle
What We Love: Sleek, lifetime warranty, effective grease management, easy to clean, durable
What We Don't Love: Expensive
Outfitting an outdoor kitchen is simple with the Blaze Premium LTE Built-in 30-Inch Griddle. Its chic stainless steel design blends with any decor and the nearly 500 square inches of cooking surface can accommodate food for any size family. And this ultra-durable model is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Though it only has two burners, this model puts out an enviable 36,000 BTUs capable of cooking breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The highlight, though, is the grease management system. Cleanup is always a consideration when purchasing a flat-top grill, and the Blaze’s thoughtfully designed system directs the flow of grease into a drip tray easily accessed to clean. From the push-button ignition to the no-fuss cleaning, there’s a lot to love about the Blaze.
Price at time of publish: $2,300
Cooking Area: 495 square inches | BTUs/hour: 36,000 | Number of Burners: 2
Related: The Best Grills
Best for Entertaining
Camp Chef 4-Burner Flat Top Propane Gas Grill
What We Love: Grill and griddle combined, large side shelves for prep, independently controlled burners, easy to clean, easy to operate
What We Don't Love: Bulky
If your home is the go-to destination for summer barbecues and family reunions, you need a hearty grill that can handle lots of food. With more than 1,000 square inches of cooking surface area, the Camp Chef Flat-Top Grill is the right choice, and though it is heavy, it comes with a wheeled cart that makes moving it around easier. Plus, it offers a griddle and grill surface making it versatile for multiple cooking options.
This free-standing option features foldable side shelves for added prep space, adjustable leg levelers for stability, and a removable grease catcher for easy cleanup. With four, independently controlled burners the cook options are unlimited. And the 50,000 BTUs it puts out easily tackles anything from a stack of pancakes to a slew of sausages.
Price at time of publish: $446
Cooking Area: 1,015 square inches | BTUs/hour: 50,000 | Number of Burners: 4
Related: The Best Propane Grills
With ample cooking surface area, powerful burners, and an enhanced grease management system for easy cleanup, the Blackstone 36-Inch Original Flat-Top Gas Griddle is a surefire bet. If you are looking for a portable option for coming road trips, go for the lightweight, but powerful, Blackstone 22-Inch Portable Gas Griddle.
How We Selected
Carrie combed through scores of top-rated flat-top grills, looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information on BTUs, cooking surface, care and maintenance, and ease of operation. She also relied on her background knowledge as a line cook and professionally trained pastry chef to evaluate each option for ease of use, required features, and versatility. She interviewed Chef Owen McGlynn of Asheville Proper, and grilling experts Derrick Riches and Daniel P. Craig, to learn the best ways to season, clean, and maintain a flat-top grill for a home cook unfamiliar with this common piece of restaurant equipment. All of this data went into Carrie’s selections for top picks, as well as guidance for what to look for and answers to commonly asked questions.
What to Look for When Buying a Flat-Top Grill
"In general, the amount of BTUs a flat-top grill can burn through only affects preheat times," says Derrick Riches, a barbecue and grilling expert, and cookbook author. "For many items cooked on a flat-top, the highest setting will be too hot. It is much more important that the temperature be controllable than simply very hot. After testing dozens of flat-top grills on the market, I have yet to find one that doesn't reach a high enough cooking temperature for most uses. For flat-top cooking, what is more important is having separate and distinct cooking zones. Often with this style of cooking, you want to have high temperatures for proteins and cooler spaces for vegetables or keeping food warm."
"Look for multiple burners, which creates a large and consistent cooking surface," says Owen McGlynn, executive chef and partner of Asheville Proper in Asheville, North Carolina. "I also think cast iron is more durable, seasons well, and cleans easily."
In addition to the cooking surface, the prep area can be a nice to have. Shelves, utensil hooks, and even cutting boards are great features to keep running back and forth to the kitchen at a minimum. Another consideration is portability, especially for months where camping and outdoor adventure abound. If this is your lifestyle, be on the lookout for models with collapsible legs and shelves, or tabletop versions.
When shopping for a flat-top grill, two space considerations come into play. The first is how much space you have in the yard, on your patio, or pool deck. Some models are bulky and require a fair amount of outdoor real estate.
The other concern is cooking surface area. Once you establish how much space you have for the grill, you must consider how many people you regularly cook for. Three hundred square inches will cover singles, couples, and small families. If you entertain or often host larger gatherings, look for at least 500 square inches of cooking surface area.
Creating a two-zone system to maximize surface area and reduce cooking time are a few tips for using your flat-top grill.”
It can be daunting to think about the care required when looking at flat-top grills, but keeping a few things in mind will make it easier. Some grills come pre-seasoned which alleviates a step in preparing your grill for cooking, though you might have to do some light cleaning beforehand. "Season the flat-top grill before and after cooking," says McGlynn. "Seasoning while it cools will keep the grill from rusting."
It's good to be mindful of your surface during cooking. "Don’t set your grill on high," says Daniel P. Craig. "Scrape the griddle between cooks to renew its nonstick surface. Always oil a hot surface and keep it that way."
Once you’ve conquered the seasoning conundrum, ease of cleaning is paramount. Look for a good grease management system to tackle the excess oil. "After each use, it's important to give your flat-top grill a good cleaning," says Craig. "Scrape excess fat and food residue with a grill scourer, then rinse with hot water and wipe dry."
What's the best oil to season a flat-top grill?
Chef McGlynn recommends you choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as olive, vegetable, or canola. You'll want to have your grill heated to at least 350 degrees before wiping it down with only a couple of tablespoons of oil.
What's the difference between a flat-top grill and a griddle?
"Typically, flat-top grills are much larger and get hotter than most griddles," says Riches. "Plus, a majority of griddles have a single heat source so they don't have the same versatility as a multi-burner flat-top. Flat-top grills come in a variety of surfaces. Most griddles have a nonstick surface, many flat-tops still use a cold-rolled steel cooktop. This requires seasoning as well as extra care. Griddles are generally a small appliance or cooking accessory, but flat-top grills are a truly unique cooking experience that offers complete meal preparation. From the standpoint of cooking potential, flat-tops are griddles on steroids."
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who worked on her fair share of flat-top grills during her restaurant days. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she has scrambled thousands of eggs, and grilled mountains of peppers and onions—she knows the importance of having a well-seasoned grill that’s easy to clean. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
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